The NFL owns Sundays in the fall and winter and commands the attention of a great number of red-blooded Americans, thrilling them with a bit of high drama and (heavily officiated and regulated) gladiatorial combat. This is unchallenged despite the presence of several other easily-accessible entertainment options and the league’s knack for finding headline-grabbing scandals. Like all other major sports, the NFL’s dominance has insulated it from competition. It’s a monopoly that’s still picking pieces of Vince McMahon’s XFL out of its teeth.
Now, in 2016, despite any perceived weakness, no one would dare mount a campaign for the hearts and minds of football fans unless they possessed a financial death wish and a burning need to be publicly embarrassed. But back in 1982, the NFL found itself in a different state with a media landscape that made competition feel like a more viable option.
Just 13 years after the AFL merged with the NFL (less time than it’s been, presently, since the XFL’s lone season), a new pro football league was in the works; a league that sought to give fans a real alternative with new teams and players, new rules and regulations, and even a new setting — one that moved the action to the Spring and Summer. It presented itself to be everything that the ‘No Fun League‘ wasn’t.
The United States Football League (USFL) was a massive undertaking that had been meticulously planned for years, though it folded after just three seasons. While several factors played a part in the destruction of the League, most of the blame gets assigned to Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
It’s impossible to talk about the USFL without also talking about Trump, who was known at the time as a New York real estate mogul who bought the New York/New Jersey Generals after the league’s first season. Almost immediately, it became apparent that Trump wasn’t interested in being a part of an up-and-coming spring and summer football league. Instead, Trump wanted to take on the NFL, and leveraged his position as a team owner to do just that. What resulted would ultimately lead to the league’s undoing, but as we all wait to see if Trump will get a chance to be the most powerful person in the free world, it’s fair to reminisce about the USFL, ponder Trump’s impact on it, and wonder what might have been had he not gotten involved.